July, the deadliest month with the highest Covid-19 deaths and infections (6,182 and 3,36,226), has just ended, but experts have said the situation is not improving soon as they fear that the infection may worsen in mid-August.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, an adviser, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) told The Business Standard (TBS), "We fear that infections and deaths will increase in the first two weeks of August, which will be 'to pour water on a drowned mouse'. At present, the positivity rate is above 30%. The restrictions that were relaxed for seven days before Eid will take effect in the first two weeks of August. If the current restrictions are enforced, the benefits are expected to be reaped by the end of August."
Bangladesh reported 218 more deaths from Covid-19 in 24 hours until Saturday 8am, taking the death toll to 20,685 in the country.
The country has been reporting over 200 deaths daily since 25 July as the health authorities are struggling to curb the infections.
In the last 24 hours, 9,369 people tested Covid-19 positive. With the latest figures, the case tally increased to 12,49,484 and the positivity rate stood at 30.28% on Saturday.
Earlier, April was the deadliest month of the covid-19 pandemic for Bangladesh when 2,404 Covid-19 patients died with the highest single-day death of 112. Besides, the daily death counts crossed the 100-plus mark five times in that month.
However, in the first 14 days in July, the death toll exceeded the record in April. There was no day in July with deaths below 100.
Export-oriented industries are opening today and there were rushes of Dhaka bound people yesterday on highways and water routes, intensifying the risk of infections. The first week of the ongoing restrictions was a bit strict but now if the restrictions are loosened then there will be no benefit of the lockdown, said Mushtuq Husain.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on Friday recommended that the ongoing countrywide lockdown be continued considering the worsening Covid-19 situation.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director-general of the DGHS, said, "If the government reopens everything, the infection rate will go up. There is pressure to open factories but if infections spread further, we will not be able to accommodate patients in hospitals.''
As the number of patients increases, 80% of the beds in Covid-19 hospitals have already been occupied. Major hospitals including Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Mugda Medical College have stopped admitting patients due to bed crises. Most of the Covid-19 dedicated hospitals in Dhaka have no vacant ICU beds. In such a situation, experts think that it will be difficult to accommodate a certain number of critical patients when more than 15,000 patients are detected every day.
Dr Mushtuq said the number of critical patients would be reduced and the pressure on hospitals would be less if Covid-19 positive patients are treated under telemedicine services. Besides, community isolation centres should be set up in government and social initiatives. If the patients remain in isolation after being positive, the number of critical patients will decrease and the disease will not spread. In such a situation, managing the patients is very important. It will have an immediate effect to reduce death and detection rate.
Shafiun Shimul, an associate professor at the University of Dhaka and a team member of the CoMo (Covid-19 Modelling) Consortium at the University of Oxford, told TBS at least high flow oxygen should be provided in hospitals outside Dhaka. In addition, to reduce the number of deaths, it is necessary to vaccinate the citizens above 50 years of age and then the young ones on a priority basis.
"Assuming that the lockdown will continue till 5 August, we modelled on 25 July that August will not be the deadliest month like July but the infection will increase. However, the sudden decision to open the garments and the massive public gathering that were created may change our modelling. So, hospital management and preventive measures to reduce infection should be emphasised. Besides, 100% of people should wear masks," he added.